The Daily Gamecock

Working with Wood: Michael Mocho

McMaster Gallery features artisans

Wood designer Michael Mocho of Albequerque, N.M., said he doesn’t consider himself an artist.

More than 45 aspiring student-artists and Columbia craftsmen would have begged to differ as they watched him at the wheel of his “lathe,” a simple wood turning mechanism dating to ancient Egypt, crafting intricate designs in what could have easily served as the leg of a chair or the neck of a lamp.

Mocho was one of 13 internationally known artisans whose works were on display in the McMaster Gallery for the Art department’s Woodworks Invitational Wednesday. In addition to the exhibit, Mocho lead a daylong workshop for students and local craftsmen at McMaster, including members of the local American Association of Woodturners chapter. During the workshop, he shared his personal history in woodworking and demonstrated his various self-taught techniques for three-dimensional art, which he has spent the past 35 years of his life honing.

“I’m really a craftsman, not an artist, but if someone sees art in what I do, that’s subjective,” Mocho said. “Art really isn’t about what the tool is or the process itself, it’s about learning in the process.”

Fourth-year sculpture student Mike Pope, who specializes in metal working, attended Wednesday’s workshop to learn about trial and error with a different, more traditional medium.

“I’m not a wood turner, but I love to hear from any artist,” Pope said. “Oftentimes you assume that everyone who does good work is always good at doing good work, but [Mocho] obviously spent his whole life trying to improve. It’s not the technical stuff that counts so much as the work ethic.”

Mocho’s visit was arranged through his connections with studio art professor Robert Lyon. The department receives funding for one visiting artist per semester, but the student ceramics organization also participates in an annual fundraiser to sponsor other events, guest speakers and trips.

“The goal of bringing in these guests is to give students an idea of what’s possible in this medium,” Lyon said. “It can really open people’s eyes to the things they can create.”

Next weekend about a dozen sculpture students will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where they will collaborate with students in the same program at the University of Alabama. Fourth-year ceramics student Isabelle Caskey hopes that this year’s exchange will become a lasting facet of the sculpture program.

“It’s a good trade-off because we’ll be parceled out among the other students,” Caskey said. “The best way to learn is by viewing other people’s work.”


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